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Meet the Forestry RPG

The Forestry Resource Policy Group (RPG) advises NACD leadership on forest issues relevant to America’s conservation districts and their partners. Get to know the members:

bsranch[at]3rivers.net
Forestry RPG member since 2015
Judith Basin County Conservation District Chairman, Montana

Hedstrom grew up in the Flathead Valley of Montana, where the major industry used to be forest products. During college, he worked in the mills and spent time on thinning projects. Over the last few decades, he has maintained an interest in the decline in the health of Montana’s 23 million acres of timber. As a 35-year conservation district supervisor, Hedstrom decided conservation districts need to become more involved in the management decisions of our private, state and national forests. He serves on the NACD Board of Directors and has a seat on the Montana Forest Action Plan Advisory Council.

What makes CDs good forestry partners: The conservation districts are in an excellent position to be the conduit for information and BMPs to forest owners. Districts are unique in their relationship with the public and agency managers.

Favorite Forestry RPG experience: Touring Mount St. Helens and the recovery practices that were employed.

Favorite tree: Western Larch, even though it is mistakenly referred to as Tamarack in Montana by many people.

gary.blair1959[at]gmail.com
Forestry RPG member since 2014
Oktibbeha County Soil and Water Conservation District Commissioner, Mississippi

Blair retired from Southern AgCredit in 2016 after 36 years of service to agriculture in Mississippi, Alabama, Louisiana and Texas. Currently, he has a private consulting business, Legacy Land & Financial Consulting. He is a 1981 graduate of Mississippi State University with degrees in agribusiness and general business administration.

Blair is a former president of the Mississippi Forestry Association, Mississippi Association of Conservation Districts, national president of the Mississippi State University Alumni Association and previous member of the board of directors of the Mississippi State University Development Foundation. He currently serves on the NACD Executive Board.

What makes CDs good forestry partners: Conservation districts are made up of elected commissioners/supervisors who work with their local federal partners, NRCS, as well as their state partners. Conservation district employees support the district through forestry educational presentations and providing forestry technical support to the local communities. Many conservation districts have tree sales or giveaways. They also have local workshops where they teach important themes such as healthy forests mean healthy people.

Why is the Forestry RPG a good resource for the CD forestry community: The Forestry RPG provides ideas and resources to local conservation districts so they may provide education and information to their communities. The RPG also shares conservation district success stories related to forestry in local communities.

Favorite Forestry RPG experience: The summer meetings and tours are always a highlight, seeing conservation districts and partners putting conservation programs on the ground.

Favorite tree: Longleaf pine

brownson[at]sacredpaw.org
Forestry RPG member since 2018
Grafton County Conservation District Vice Chair, New Hampshire

Brownson is a forest landowner in Wentworth and manages a mixed hardwood and conifer forest of 200 acres in the western foothills of the White Mountains. Soon after settling in New Hampshire in 2003, she became president of the New Hampshire Association of Conservation Districts, and then chair of the New Hampshire State Committee, the state conservation agency. She is currently a member of the NACD Board of Directors. She is also heavily involved with the New Hampshire Timberland Owners Association, a coalition of landowners, forest industry professionals, government officials and supporters who work together to promote better forest management and conserve our working forests.

What makes CDs good forestry partners: They possess the local knowledge of the landscape and have, over time, cultivated networks of local landowners. Districts provide interested landowners with educational materials, relevant workshops/demonstrations/conferences, and knowledgeable speakers on the topics in which landowners are most interested. Districts promote the conservation and wise use of our forest resources.

Why is the Forestry RPG a good resource for the CD forestry community: The Forestry RPG provides valuable, pertinent information and conservation district stories, enabling other districts to learn and engage in forestry activities. The nationwide forestry network provides a great structure for districts to convey forestry issues and concerns to our RPG community for discussion and possible action. It also puts in place a means for our group to disseminate forestry information and news to districts.

Favorite Forestry RPG experience: My favorite experience so far has been our meeting in Puerto Rico, where we saw firsthand the resolve and the resiliency of the people there to persevere and, hopefully, to begin to thrive, despite the many setbacks they have endured. Meeting the folks on the land, the conservation district officials, as well as the agency representatives, was most instructive and offered us a glimpse into their culture.

Favorite tree: The Sugar Maple, Acer saccharum.

toms.trees[at]hotmail.com
Forestry RPG member since 2008
Allen County Soil and Water Conservation District Chairman, Indiana

Crowe has been a private forestry consultant in northeast Indiana since 1985, assisting private, mostly non-industrial forest landowners with management of their forestland, including programs, appraisals and management plans, timber harvests, forest stand improvement, invasive species control and tree planting. He earned a degree in forest management from Purdue University.

He serves on the Indiana NRCS State Technical Committee and its forestry subcommittee; the Indiana Forest Woodland Owners Association; and the national Joint Forestry Team, among other boards.

What makes CDs good forestry partners: Conservation districts are locally-led, so they are the ideal delivery system of information, assistance and programs to the public. I got involved with conservation districts more than 30 years ago because they were the ones holding forestry field days and educational events for both adults and kids. They were the ones doing outreach and education for experienced and inexperienced forest landowners.

Why is the Forestry RPG a good resource for the CD forestry community: The RPG keeps forestry on the minds of the national organization, but also provides input back to the local level. Perhaps most important, it carries input from the local level to the national level.

Favorite Forestry RPG experience: The interaction and networking with forestry and other resource professionals from across the country to learn and share successes for the improvement of the resource.

Favorite tree: Tough choice. I would like to say any trees from the central hardwoods area, but I’ll pick the sturdy white oak because of its durability along with all the ecological and economic benefits that it provides, and the complexity of its management.

orv.gigstad[at]windstream.net
Forestry RPG member since 2007
Nemaha Natural Resource District Director, Nebraska

Gigstad is a large animal veterinarian in Nebraska. He is a longtime NACD Board Member and has served as Region Chair for the NACD Northern Plains. He is the former president of the Nebraska Association of Natural Resources Districts.

What makes CDs good forestry partners: The districts supply trees, prepare the site, and plant trees with fabric, if desired. And districts provide valuable technical assistance to landowners.

Why is the Forestry RPG a good resource for the CD forestry community: It’s an excellent vehicle to get the message from conservation districts spread out to the vast networks of people interested in forestry.

Favorite Forestry RPG experience: Our trip to Grey Towers was an inspiration.

Favorite tree: Walnut.

doug.rushton[at]conservewa.net
Forestry RPG member since 2007
Thurston Conservation District Board Supervisor, Washington

Rushton is a forestry graduate of the Peninsula College technical program and the University of Washington College of Forest Resources, focusing on silviculture and economics. He worked for the U.S. Forest Service at the Pacific Northwest Experiment Station, and the Olympic, Targhee and Colville National Forests. He currently serves on the NACD Board of Directors and is a member of the Washington Farm Forestry Association, whose focus is owners of small woodlands. From 2011 to 2017, he represented NACD on the Forest Resources Coordinating Committee, advising the U.S. Secretary of Agriculture on forestry issues.

What makes CDs good forestry partners: With a nationwide network of people working forestry and related natural resources issues, conservation districts have worked a multitude of subjects – a storehouse they can draw on to help individual landowners and managers solve their local problems. The conservation district approach to helping people – be it through education and information or in preparing technical solutions – is one based on flexibility that tailors help to the needs of the specific project. With their connections, districts can often show a pathway for cost-share funding in order to get work done on the ground.

Why is the Forestry RPG a good resource for the CD forestry community? Because you can gain insight and knowledge through the nationwide network. For many, many things – someone, somewhere, at some time has tried what you’re thinking about and you can tap into that knowledge.

Favorite Forestry RPG experience: I think I liked the trip to Madison most (2010), as Aldo Leopold has been a long-time hero and we went to his “shack” and the headquarters for the foundation.

Favorite tree: Western red cedar because of the aroma. I love it when a cedar-laden log truck goes by on the highway and you can smell it, the ease with which it is worked and its merchantable value, and maybe mostly the spiritual value as held by the PNW Tribes.

dhogan[at]gacd.us
Forestry RPG member since 2019
Central Georgia Soil and Water Conservation District Supervisor, Georgia

Hogan is a third-generation farmer and member of the NACD Board of Directors. Of the 900 acres of woodland he manages, 119 acres are enrolled in the Longleaf Conservation Reserve Program. He is past president of the Georgia Association of Soil and Water Conservation District Supervisors and a member of Pine Country RC&D Council.

What makes CDs good forestry partners: Their close contact with producers and with NRCS, so they can share concerns producers have on different policies.

Why is the Forestry RPG a good resource for the CD forestry community: To see what is going on in other states and learn what their needs are so it can be shared with others.

Favorite Forestry RPG experience: Going to Puerto Rico and learning the ways the people have endured from hurricanes.

Favorite tree: Longleaf pine

jmcalpine[at]kingwoodforestry.com
Forestry RPG member since 2014
Drew County Conservation District Vice President, Arkansas

McAlpine graduated from the University of Arkansas at Monticello with a B.S. in forestry. He is the manager of Monticello Operations and president of Kingwood Forestry. McAlpine is a registered forester in Arkansas and Mississippi, a real estate broker in Arkansas and Louisiana, and a state certified general appraiser in Arkansas, Louisiana, Texas and Missouri. He represents NACD on the national Joint Forestry Team and is an active member of the Arkansas Forestry Association.

Why is the Forestry RPG a good resource for the CD forestry community: Conservation districts are located in all areas of the country and help spread the word about good forestry practices and the benefits of a well-managed forest.

Favorite Forestry RPG experience: Assisting with the education of the importance of State Forest Action Plans and how it relates the items of the farm bill and future farm bills.

Favorite tree: Bald Cypress

icd[at]vcn.com
Forestry RPG member since 2016
Campbell County Conservation District, Wyoming

Hart earned a B.S. in environmental horticultural science from California Polytechnic State University, San Luis Obispo, and her Masters in agricultural production chain management from Van Hall Larenstein University, part of Wageningen University and Research, in the Netherlands. In 2013, she was appointed to the National Forest Advisory Board for the Black Hills, and in 2019 she was appointed to serve on the national Joint Forestry Team.

What makes CDs good forestry partners: The main strength conservation districts have is their ability to bring resources and partners together to work toward a common goal. Many districts around the country also provide education and outreach to landowners to help connect them with agencies that have programs to assist management.

Why is the Forestry RPG a good resource for the CD forestry community: We are composed of folks from every region and various backgrounds in forestry. This allows the RPG to look at any issue from multiple perspectives.

Favorite Forestry RPG experience: I really enjoyed going to Mount Rushmore and visiting with the Park Service staff about the forestry work they have done around the monument, especially when challenged by the pine beetle epidemic.

Favorite tree: Joshua Tree

charles[at]holmesteadcompany.com
Forestry RPG member since 1999
Perry County Soil and Water Conservation District Chairman, Alabama

Holmes owns Holmestead Company, a purebred horned Hereford and Brahman cross cow-calf, stocker and timber operation. This land was homesteaded in 1819 by his great-great-grandfather, William Moore. He is a past president of the Alabama Association of Conservation Districts and served on the NACD Board of Directors for 28 years.

What makes CDs good forestry partners: Their ability to educate the youth as well the rest of the community on the benefits of a healthy forest. Our conservation district is made up of 70 percent forestland and 90 percent is privately owned. We partner with the Alabama Forestry Commission, Alabama Extension and NRCS to put on ‘Classroom in the Forest’ every spring.

Favorite Forestry RPG experience: Our summer meetings and being able to see how forestry is practiced in different parts of the country.

Favorite tree: Either longleaf pine or swamp white oak.

garrett.stephens[at]usda.gov
Forestry RPG member since 2017
Jefferson Conservation District Director, Colorado

Stephens joined the Jefferson Conservation District staff in 2014 to support the forest conservation program and became the director in 2017. He’s had a variety of work experiences in the Midwest and western states in back-country leadership and natural resource management. Stephens earned a B.S. in environmental biology from Greenville College and a M.S in ecology from Colorado State University.

What makes CDs good forestry partners: They’re locally relevant and involved but also connected to higher level governments to provide input and request resources. Because CDs are small government, they are nimble enough to serve a variety of functions and can respond quickly in ways larger institutions cannot.

Why is the Forestry RPG a good resource for the CD forestry community: Primarily information sharing and networking; shares what other CDs are doing across the nation.

Favorite Forestry RPG experience: Attending tours out of my home state.

Favorite tree: Ponderosa pine

rachel.theler[at]state.co.us
Forestry RPG member since 2018
Colorado State Conservation Board Conservation Specialist, Colorado

Theler grew up in rural Montana and spent her childhood going to work with her grandfather, who was a forester for Plum Creek Timber for 48 years. She graduated with a B.A. in communication studies from the University of Montana. Since 2015, she has worked for the Colorado State Conservation Board, supporting conservation districts in the Southeast and San Luis Valley. She has recently taken on the role of Conservation Communications Coordinator to assist Colorado conservation districts with their outreach and communications efforts.

What makes CDs good forestry partners: Because conservation district staff and supervisors live and work in the communities they represent, they understand firsthand the issues and opportunities that exist in their districts. They are also tied to the welfare of their areas and will pursue projects that enhance that welfare with passion and tenacity.

Why is the Forestry RPG a good resource for the CD forestry community: It allows local districts to tap into a national network of forestry ideas, funding opportunities and partners. It also allows conservation districts to have a national voice at the forestry table. To top it off, by contacting the RPG, districts are immediately connected to people that are passionate not only about forestry but to conservation district work and will be stalwart allies of the conservation district forestry cause.

Favorite Forestry RPG experience: Learning about all the different aspects of forest recovery in Puerto Rico following Hurricane Maria.

Favorite tree: Ponderosa Pine. I love the butterscotch smell, plus it’s my home state’s tree. But I am a big fan of all the serotinous species.

mike-beacom[at]nacdnet.org
Forestry RPG member since 2006
National Association of Conservation Districts, Wisconsin

Beacom began doing forestry communications work for NACD in 2000, shortly after graduating from the University of Wisconsin-Stevens Point. He is responsible for staffing the Forestry RPG, assisting NACD policy staff with forest-related policy, and engaging dozens of state and federal forestry partners.

What makes CDs good forestry partners: Conservation districts are doers. They serve roles, big and small, in forestry efforts all across the country. They can be the glue that bonds these larger efforts. But above all, conservation districts are local and have the respect and trust of their neighbors.

Why is the Forestry RPG a good resource for the CD forestry community: We spread ideas. Often, conservation districts have access to the same partners and resources, they just don’t know how to put it together until they learn of a success somewhere else in the country. The RPG helps make that connection.

Favorite Forestry RPG experience: When Chuck Leavell gave the RPG a tour of his tree farm and treated our group to “Georgia on My Mind” in his living room.

Favorite tree: The cedar that defines the front yard of our family farm.

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